Things To Consider Before Enrolling In An Online Degree Program

Published on: June 06, 2022

Signing up for an online degree program is easier than ever before, but that does not mean students should rush into it. Before making such a big commitment in time and finances, it is vital to do some research to avoid disappointment and regrets down the road. Here are just a few of the key factors to take into consideration while deciding on where to study.

Accreditation

Accreditation is one of the first things to consider as it can have a significant impact on your studies. The popularity of online learning has unfortunately meant that a lot of diploma mills appeared too. These often appear legitimate, but the diplomas won't impress future employers in the same way a degree from an accredited institution would. In addition, enrolling in a nonaccredited college means not being eligible for federal or state financial aid. In most cases, students are also not eligible for receiving some scholarships and grants if they are not in an accredited college. Also, if you need professional certification or licensure, make sure that the online degree program offered can adequately prepare you for these.

Retention Rates

A lot of students neglect to look at the graduation and retention rates. The graduation rate indicates how many students go on to complete their degrees after they have enrolled in the program. While it is helpful for gauging the quality of a degree, the retention rate is just as important. The retention rate is an indication of how many first-time, first-year students continue their studies at that specific learning institution. This can be a good measure to determine whether the institution is living up to the expectations of students after they have enrolled. If possible, find out what types of organizations employ graduates from the program you are interested in, highlighting how appealing it is to prospective employers.

Social Elements

For many students, the college experience is more than just simply attending classes, but also the social aspect as well. However, other students prefer to focus exclusively on their studies. If you are the former type, be sure to look into what kind of online groups are associated with the institution where you want to enroll. Typical options include book clubs, fitness groups, professional associations, honor societies, etc.

Sample Courses

Not all online courses are created equally, so it can be helpful to try out a course sample first to see if it matches your needs. Universities that offer sample courses make it easier for students to gain an understanding of how their classes are structured and what type of online learning management system is used. Another thing to look at is the course's learning objectives that interest you. Make sure that your goals align with what the objectives state you will be able to do or know after successfully completing the course.

Travel Requirements

Many courses can be completed 100% online, but some might require students to travel to external facilities or campuses for practical work or exams. Before enrolling in a course, make sure that you are aware of these travel requirements and are able to comply with them. Remember that it is usually up to students to pay for the travel cost and set the required time aside to attend any external functions or exams. If you are not able to travel at all, make sure that the course you want to complete is offered entirely online.

Faculty Credentials

Even if a course is good, students might end up struggling if their instructors for the online classes are not proficient at their job. Looking into instructors' credentials is vital if you tend to rely a lot on them while working towards your degree. For example, look into whether the instructor also works as campus teachers or if they work remotely only. This type of information might always be readily available, so look at feedback from former students about the teaching style of their instructor to find out if they will be a good match for your needs. Also, keep in mind that even if an instructor has excellent credentials teaching on campus, they might not be used to the online format and struggle to use it efficiently. Find out if the instructors have received training or specialize in teaching effectively online.

Course Format

Online learning brings many benefits, but not all online programs make effective use of them. Check if the online course was designed to take advantage of video, audio, images, and more or if the instructor is simply working straight from a textbook. A course that is not engaging and well presented can be difficult to complete and demotivating in the long run.

After Graduation Support

Some traditional universities offer support for alumni through career counseling and even networking. These are the types of benefits that are increasingly drawing students to certain online universities as well. Find out if you are able to get that kind of support after graduation from your university after graduation especially if you are entering the job market for the first time and need help with the process.

Conclusion

An online degree can boost your confidence and employment prospects, but it is also easy to end up disappointed if you are not careful. The popularity of online degrees means there's no shortage of options available, but not all of them are created equally, and it is up to students to ensure that they ask the right questions before committing to one. Everything mentioned above depends on students being proactive and putting in the time and effort to make the right decisions.

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